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Lake Eyre

Thursday, June 18, 2009
Lying in the centre of South Australia is the stark wilderness and timeless landscape of Lake Eyre. This extensive "salt sink" has only filled to capacity three times in the past 150 years. When Lake Eyre does fill, it becomes Australia's largest lake, teeming with wildlife. This is a spectacle not to be missed, and Giaan Rooney was lucky enough to witness this natural phenomenon.

The Lake Eyre Basin covers one-sixth of the continent and cradles much Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture and history. Lake Eyre is 280km long and 85km wide — about the same size as the Netherlands. It is made up of large parts of South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, with a small slice of New South Wales thrown in.

Thanks to run-off from the recent Queensland floods travelling more than 1500km south, the lake is filling, once again. In 2004, it was half-full so now is a special time. The level is expected to continue to rise and should peak around August this year, with the water starting to recede during September.

Scenic flight

Established in 1990, Wrightsair has a fleet of Cessna 172s, 207s, 210s and an Australian-made GA8 Airvan. the airline's pilots are highly experienced in outback flying and specialise in scenic flights, Aboriginal art tours and charters from William Creek and Coober Pedy.

The 1.2 million square kilometre basin river system is breathtaking from the air, even more incredible when you realise you are in the driest part of the driest state on the driest continent on earth.

When the lake is up to 80 percent full, 85 bird varieties in their millions appear and the colours and patterns of the lake are accentuated.

Before departing you will see a video telling of the history of Lake Eyre then you're ready to take off. The plane flies low so passengers see islands, the shoreline and birds, and as you climb, you will see just how enormous the lake is.

It's just as exciting when there's no water in the lake — it's so white and shimmering you could be flying over Antarctica, so if you can't get there while it's wet, it's just as fascinating when the region is dry.

William Creek

Giaan visited William Creek, the closest town to Lake Eyre. It has a population you can count on two hands. It's on the world's largest working cattle station, the 24,000 square kilometre Anna Creek Station, which is part of the Sidney Kidman empire. Each April, the town hosts the William Creek races.

Whether you arrive by plane or road, the first place to stop is the famous pub. It's along the Oodnadatta Track, halfway between Oodnadatta and Marree. It was built in 1887 to service The Ghan railway line between Alice Springs and Adelaide.

The timber and corrugated-iron building is adorned with business cards, hand-scrawled notes and all sorts of memorabilia left by visitors from around the globe. It provides drinks and refreshments for travellers, and accommodation is available if you wish to stay on in the town. There's a campground and demountables with twin-share rooms. It's basic, but it will fulfil all your needs.

Across the road is a little museum established by the William Creek Progress Association and the owners of the William Creek Store.

From the pub, it's about an hour's bumpy and dusty drive for your first glimpse of the lake. It's definitely four-wheel drive country and should not be attempted in anything less. Giaan said it was like looking at a mirage or a mighty ocean and it was difficult to comprehend the enormity of the lake. You can't get really close by road, and the other way to take it all in is, of course, by air.

Location

Lake Eyre, 700km north of Adelaide.

Cost

Wrightsair has one- and two-hour scenic flights over Lake Eyre. The one-hour flight costs $220 per person with a minimum of two people, and two-hour flights cost $350 per person with a minimum of two people. Children's fares are $160 and $280 for one- and two-hour flights respectively. Flights depart from Williams Creek daily at 8am, 11am, 2pm and 5pm.

Williams Creek Hotel campsite costs $10 per person. Cabins are $70 per night.

Prices correct at June 18, 2009.

For further information

Wrightsair
Private Bag 52
William Creek
Via Port Augusta SA 5710
Ph: (08) 8670 7962
Fax: (08) 8670 7962
www.wrightsair.com.au
wrightsair@bigpond.com

William Creek Hotel
Oodnadatta Track
William Creek SA 5710
Ph: (08) 8670 7880
Fax: (08) 8670 7881
www.williamcreekhotel.net.au
bookings@williamcreekhotel.net.au

User comments
Any packages out of any eastern capital city BNE to ADELAIDE ? Would prefer a flight over & also contacting anybody running 'on the ground tours' onto the lake re the wildlife if a viable and interesting experience. Any leads or comments?
Have been lucky enough to see Lake Eyre with and without water!! From both the ground and the air. Heron Airline does tours to Lake Eyre from Bankstown Airport, 3,4 or5 days.
Lake Eyre is the largest internally drainage basin in the world. so forgive Giaan for any miss interpretations. It is the largest in australia and a great spectacle... just letting you know Prom
We too were there when the film crew were on location filimg and have since discovered that we feature briefly in the segment. Is it possible to get an unedited copy of the footage taken especially the section where the 2 vehicles are coming into William Creek. Seeing and paddling in the water in Lake Eyre at Halligan Bay was a major highlight of our trip....seeing our vehicles appear on Getaway quite unexpectedly has provided us with an extra buzz. Thank you.
Please advise of any Lake Eyre packages that the team may know about that would be out of Brisbane in the next couple of months.
We were there when the Getaway team was doing its thing. Flew over Lake Eyre, just spectacular, the colours were amazing, as were the pelicans, a once in a lifetime experience, just breathtaking. Camped at William Creek and Halligan Bay, watched the sunset over the Lake. Amazing stuff. Missed Getaway last night and am so disappointed.
May you please email the video footage of tonights topic on lake eyre i just missed it bummer i was there when you were filming.
Hiya Just letting you know that Giaan mentioned that Lake eyre is the largest inlan lake in the world - all lakes are inland The world's largest lake in the world is the Caspian Sea which is completely enclosed by Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, the name gets everyone.

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